After last night’s terrible Hillary performance and this morning’s polling coup de grace for Trump, what possible reason could Clinton have for showing up for the third debate except pure pride? She has everything to lose from it potentially and nothing to gain, especially with a desperate Trump willing to try anything as a last-minute gamechanger. He was willing to try this last night, in fact, and nearly pulled it off. Imagine what he’ll be willing to do on October 19th if his polls drop through the floor.
Donald Trump’s campaign sought to intimidate Hillary Clinton and embarrass her husband by seating women who have accused former president Bill Clinton of sexual abuse in the Trump family’s box at the presidential debate here Sunday night, according to four people involved in the discussions.
The campaign’s plan, which was closely held and unknown to several of Trump’s top aides, was thwarted just minutes before it could be executed when officials with the Commission on Presidential Debates intervened. The commission officials warned that, if the Trump campaign tried to seat the accusers in the elevated family box, security officers would remove the women, according to the people involved, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential.
The gambit to give Bill Clinton’s accusers prime seats was devised by Trump campaign chief executive Stephen K. Bannon and Jared Kushner, the candidate’s son-in-law, and approved personally by Trump.
The argument against either candidate skipping the first or second debate was that the race was too close to risk being seen as a coward who’d duck a public challenge. “How can you stand up to Putin if you can’t stand up to Trump/Hillary?!” That risk was especially great for Clinton since some voters might worry that a woman commander-in-chief wouldn’t have the same spine in office as a man would. The race probably isn’t close anymore, though (the next few days of polling will tell), and may turn into a freakish rout if more dirt on Trump lands in the newspapers. Clinton’s also already proved twice that she’s willing to face Trump down, beating him at the first debate and then sitting there last night and taking everything he could throw at her on Bill’s scandals. Trump will call her a coward anyway if she bugs out of debate three but I think most people would see it as the equivalent of kneeling on the ball, which is what it would be. All she needs is a pretext, and at the rate the October surprises are dropping, that shouldn’t be difficult to come by over the next 10 days. If a new tape emerges or a woman comes forward claiming that Trump harassed her, Team Hillary could issue a statement about how Trump is beyond the pale, etc etc, and to further legitimize him by sharing a stage with him would be irresponsible and insulting to women voters. Would that be ridiculous coming from someone who’s stood by Bill Clinton for 40 years? Yes it would, but that fact hasn’t hurt Hillary much up to now. No reason to think it’ll start two weeks out from Election Day.
She’ll probably do the debate anyway out of pure contempt for Trump, believing that she can’t possibly blow it so badly as to erase a wide lead in the polls in 90 minutes. Kneeling on the ball would imply she’s afraid of an interception and surely that could never happen against a defense this bad, right? That’s dumb, but the whole campaign has been dumb so at least it’d be true to form. In fact, just as I’m writing this, Politico has posted video of Clinton telling a reporter she’ll do the debate. Stay tuned. Speaking of new October surprises, here’s a surprising admission in a very surprising format — Trump buddy Geraldo Rivera telling Fox News on Friday that he has his own tapes of Trump from over the years and that some of the things on them would cause him political pain if they came out. Trump doesn’t have to worry about those leaking out, though. Does he?